At the end of March, 2010, I started running. I had never, ever, run before, but I had to do something to jumpstart the fitness routine and to maintain sanity through law school (not to mention my divorce). After trying on my own and really sucking at it, I decided I needed help, so I bought the Couch to 5K app (C25K). Turns out it was a great idea because it was a forced discipline. It told me when and how to run, imposing its goals on me. I completed that app, which seemed kind of a miracle, and was so inspired by my achievement that I then did the Bridge to 10K one. In a few months (4, actually) I went from not being able to run to the end of the block to running over 6 miles.
After I completed that app, I kept running, sort of. I no longer had that “forced” discipline, so I did it less and less, or in spurts, with no real goal except the vague “to stay in shape at some level.” The distance definitely dropped even though I’d still get out there every other day for weeks at a time. It just wasn’t the same.
Meanwhile, one of my law school buddies ran her first marathon a couple of months ago. She’s considerably younger than I, of course. Still, I’m way impressed. Surprisingly, she contacted me to ask me to run a half-marathon with her. I thought she was nuts… I mean, the 10K had been a challenge to achieve, but 13.1 miles? That’s more than twice that distance! And then I thought about it and said “Yes.”
Why am I talking about this to you? Well, because it’s all about using tools and doing the work.
You have goals in your business. You want to bill $X or get Y number of new clients or work with Client Z… you have (I hope) some goal or goals. In order for you to achieve them, you have to do the work. Every day. What are you doing to make that happen? What tools are you using to make sure you have an executable plan? Do you have a tool to structure the daily tasks necessary to achieve your goal?
Me, I bought a new app to train for the half-marathon in March, 2011. Now, every morning (well 6 out of 7 days a week), I have something I have to do. I know I can’t get to 13.1 miles on my own–I need a tool to help me get there. With this app, the plan is laid out for me. But I still have to do the work, every day. I have to commit to that, to the work, and not weasel out with excuses. Like this morning, when it was cold outside and my bed was warm and I’m fighting a bit of bronchitis–I did not want to go run and could hear myself saying that I should rest, etc. But I had promised myself to be committed to the program, to do the work, and so I laced up the shoes, fired up the app, and ran my assignment for the day.
Most creatives have a hard time structuring their time. There is a false belief that creativity comes from inspiration which cannot be controlled or forced or scheduled. These are rationalizations to avoid doing the work. If you don’t regulate your time and activities, you don’t achieve the goals you want. Maybe you feel like you are working all the time, but you are doing so inefficiently and without specific purpose, and this hurts your business.
Are you one of those creatives? If so, you need to read this article about how more successful creatives structure their time and concentrate their efforts (this older article is also interesting and related). Basically, less time + harder effort = higher level of success. In other words, you have to do the work, regularly. The work for you includes the work you may not love (marketing) as well as the creative work. And structure in these efforts is your friend.
So, as we head into the end of the year, I suggest taking some time to brainstorm some goals or at least figure out what you want to accomplish in 2012. Then, find some tools to help you achieve. Calendaring apps, GTD systems… there are lots of tools out there. I can help you with your planning, of course (that’s part of what I do), but, no matter what, you’re still going to have to do the work. Commit to it.
Here’s a good starter list of things to commit to for 2012:
- I will do my work.
- I will work smarter and harder, but not longer.
- I will schedule my efforts.
There is no shame in using tools to help you. Or using a coach. Or admitting you need help to do what you want to do. I know you can make 2012 a more successful year–you just need to do the work.